Tag Archives: Censorship

Censorship in Action—-The Comics Evaluation List, number two.

Comics evaluation list maIN PAGE 001Found among a pile of literary ephemera at Jot HQ is this single sheet folded twice and entitled ‘ Comics Evaluation List  Number Two ‘. According to a handwritten inscription at the head of the text this was evidently a proof of a document to be published, probably in September 1953. In 1952, in the words of the introduction ‘ a group of writers and others concerned with children’s reading’ had drawn up a list of comics that glorified ‘ crime, brutality, sadism and lust ‘. As a result of this first ‘ evaluation list ‘ some of these publications had ‘disappeared from circulation and reputable newsagents refused to handle them’.

This second list was to be a more extensive catalogue of offensive publications that nonetheless included those comics to which the board of censors had no objection. If we look at the publication details on the bottom of the list we find that it was printed for the ‘Authors’ World Peace Appeal’. Further investigation reveals that this was a British pacifist organisation launched in October 1951 which flourished in the immediate post-war period of Cold War incriminations where the horrors of the Holocaust and of Hiroshima and Nagasaki were still fresh in the public mind. In their Bulletin number 7 (n.d.) the writers mentioned in the Comics list expressed their views thus:-

‘We writers believe that our civilisation is unlikely to survive another world war. We believe that differing political and economic systems can exist side by side on the basis of peacefully negotiated settlements . As writers we want peace and through our work will try and get it, and we pledge ourselves to encourage an international settlement through peaceful negotiations . We condemn writing liable to sharpen existing dangers and hatred. As signatories we are associated with no political movement, party, or religious belief, but are solely concerned with trying to stop the drift to war,’  

Some of the names of the signatories to this declaration are printed. The writers included:

Edmund Blunden, Vera Brittain, Albert Camus, Alex Comfort, Rupert Croft Cooke ( see earlier Jot), A.E.Coppard, Christopher Fry, William Gerhardi, Joyce Grenfell, Aldous Huxley, C.E.M.Joad, Marghanita Laski, Doris Lessing, C.Day Lewis, Compton Mackenzie, Naomi Mitchison, Sean O’ Casey, Kathleen Raine, Herbert Read, Siegfried Sassoon, Edith Sitwell, Dylan Thomas, Sylvia Townsend Warner. Continue reading

Books we must not read. Part Two


Recently, following the lead of an article by William Mason-Owen published in a 1951 issue of The Colophon magazine, Jot 101 looked at some of the manuscripts and typescripts in the British Museum Library that were then withheld from publication due to the sensitivity of their contents. In part two we examine the banned printed books mentioned in the article.

First on the Colophon list is Cantab, by the otherwise respected Irish writer Shane Leslie, which appeared in 1926. This was ‘withdrawn under threat of legal proceedings for obscenity’. Your Jotter hasn’t examined the novel, which recounts the adventures and misadventures of a Cambridge undergraduate, but those in the know have maintained that any indelicacies it contains are inoffensive and certainly do not justify the ban.

D.H.Lawrence’s The Rainbow and Lady Chatterley’s Lover were also regarded as dangerous to public morality. Around half the first edition of the former was burned in 1915, hence its comparative rarity. Moreover, if you can find a copy in the original rather sensationalist dust wrapper you will get a few thousand pounds for it.

Ulysses (1922) was another on the list. The Little Review, in which excerpts appeared, was prosecuted in the US and the whole book remained suppressed here until 1934.The Egoist, which published parts of it in the UK was also the subject of court action. The first edition of the book appeared in Paris in 1922, but copies of this and subsequent continental editions were subject to seizure by British customs until a ban was lifted on its publication in the thirties.

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